Well, we all made it through February relatively unscathed. Weather records tells us that last month was the coldest month on record for Rome. Not just the coldest February; the coldest month. Let that sink in. That’s a pretty impressive feat, considering that they began measuring temperatures in 1857!
Weather can be like that. Awesome and impressive, sometimes scary. That’s mother nature for you. Any force that can bring hurricanes, tornados, volcanos, earthquakes, humongous sinkholes, the Northern Lights, Tsunamis, flash floods, and the like is a force that is not to be taken lightly. At times it is perfectly appropriate to be impressed and awed by our planet.
Shock and awe is something that our culture thrives on. Everywhere you turn (and I am guilty of this, too) people attribute words like “awesome” to everyday, slightly surprising occurrences. (Comedian Eddie Izzard has a hilarious routine about it; any joke that compares the “awesomesness” of a tasty hot dog with the true awesomeness of the cosmos is worth laughing about!)
It seems we have traded true, breathtaking awesomeness and magnitude for the figurative, and are now expected to respond in kind to this erroneous moniker. No where is this more evident than in the evolution of the weather report. When I was young, the weather report was pretty straightforward. Temperature; wind (or not); rain, sun, or cloud cover; and when it all was predicted to happen. It came on with the news at finite times (morning, night, and late night, on the hour on the radio) and that was it. It didn’t tell us how to act, it didn’t try to dictate our lives. It assumed that the average adult was smart enough to interpret the weather for themselves and their families. It’s raining? Said adult would be sure to grab and umbrella and wear a raincoat. It’s cold? Hat, gloves, muffler, and warm coat. Very cold? Try to get through your day without being outside much. And what’s more, said adult, if they had made the wrong decision and realized it once they were out, would alter their course and respond appropriately. End of story.
These days, weather is constantly available, on every news website. What’s more, there is a disturbing fear-mongering trend in weather reporting, and coupled with our society’s insistence that everyone be absolutely never at risk EVER just in case there might be some sort of litigious liability, it has created a monster. Every 2-3 inches of perfectly logical wintertime precipitation is now a “winter storm,” complete with a catchy name so we can remember the minimal dusting that it brought us. Every cold day is suddenly too cold to function, closing schools sometimes days in advance. Politicians are telling people something they should be able to decide for themselves: Don’t leave the house! It is much too cold for any living thing to be out!
Forgive the expression, but I feel that not only is this movement an awful lot of bunk, but potentially damaging in an area where tourism provides a large portion of the much-needed income for our communities, and where commerce still has to continue regardless of temperature. I am not that old, but even I can remember growing up at the base of Tug Hill and frequently getting copious amounts of snow. We shovelled out and got on with our lives. If it was cold, we bundled up. If it was not that nice out we drove slow. If it was truly bad, we, as cognizant humans, would decide on the appropriate action. No one needed to tell us what to be afraid of and how to act.
I am hopeful that we as a population haven’t lost our ability to make good decisions from the information given, based on logic and common sense. I say, if you hear a weather report, want to go skiing and think you can comfortably do so, do it! If you want to bundle up for the three minutes that you are outside and drive slowly to a movie or dinner, do it! Your local businesses, which thrive on your patronage, will be glad that you decided to think for yourself.